Protecting collections by raising the perceived status of systematics

Ron at Ron at
Thu Apr 17 13:19:41 CDT 2003

Gerald's is a detailed and serious post that should be addressed item by
item.  I will start with #4 below.

----- Original Message -----
From: "Gerald R. Noonan" <carabid at MPM.EDU>
Sent: Thursday, April 17, 2003 11:45 AM
Subject: Protecting collections by raising the perceived status of systema

> 4. Even without the survey suggested under item 1 above I strongly
> that.
>         A. we must sell systematics as a vitally important discipline,
> extremely interesting and productive branch of science.

When we started TILS (The International Lepidoptera Survey) in 1998 we came
up with a motto.  At the time it just looked catchy as a phrase.  But as
time has gone on, through the comments of many others, we have come to see
how important this motto is.   The motto is this.

  "We can not protect that which we do not know."

At the top of our donations page we state
the following.

"Every day around the world, in jungles and urban areas alike, insect
species and subspecies are becoming extinct.  Every year scores of taxa are
lost that have not even been scientifically discovered and documented.
Thus, their extinction is unnoticed because their existence is unknown.
They are unknown simply because they have not been collected and
systematically identified.  Without systematic taxonomy there is nothing.
Without the collection, and exchange of specimens (information) there will
be no systematic taxonomy.  Without amateur collectors the majority of the
undiscovered species/subspecies will vanish before they are discovered.  Be
it butterflies or moon rocks, collecting is the first step of access to all
other scientific information -and protection."

Here we have the connection of _collection_ (collections) and
_conservation_.   I do not think there is any greater "pitch" to make the
"sale" for the importance of collections/ taxonomy/ systematics etc. than
the direct relationship to conservation.  Are Universities going about
eliminating their libraries?   Their text books?  A collection is a
library, nothing more.  Each properly labeled specimen is available for
"reading" - its phenotype, morphology, DNA, place of origin
(occurrence/range) etc.   In today's world the number one real world
application of this data is in conservation.    At this hour we need more
collecting, collections, researchers (in all related areas).  Without
these, the thousands of as yet unknown, undocumented and undescribed
organisms will never be known - and never protected.

If something really has to go, I  say keep the collections and get rid of
the costly sports programs. Put education back as job one - not
entertainment by gladiators.

Ron Gatrelle
TILS president
Charleston, SC - USA

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